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Explore Top Direct Entry Nurse Practitioner Programs for 2024

Direct entry nurse practitioner programs give you the opportunity to fast-track your entry into the nursing field, regardless of your academic background. This guide will help you find the best programs for you.

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A compassionate Asian nurse in scrubs smiles reassuringly at an elderly Caucasian woman during a consultation in a bright medical office filled with student resources.

Have you ever dreamed of working in the medical field and providing advanced care to patients? Do you have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field and feel unsure of how to make a career change? With the explosive demand in the nursing field, now is the perfect time to pursue a direct entry nurse practitioner (NP) program online or in a traditional setting. Direct entry nurse practitioner programs are specifically designed for students with a completed bachelor’s degree and a non-nursing background. Direct entry NP students enjoy a streamlined course of study and graduate with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Over the course of the program, students receive the classroom and clinical experience necessary to pass the NCLEX-RN and enter the medical field as advanced practice nurses. These programs also open a variety of career opportunities to graduates and are an excellent option for career changers. Read on to learn more about the best direct entry nurse practitioner programs for non-nurses in 2023, including their requirements, timeline, and job outlook following graduation.

Featured Schools: Top Direct Entry NP Programs

Getting started on your search for a direct entry nurse practitioner program while also exploring a whole new career path can feel overwhelming. To help get you started, we have handpicked some great options for you which outline program length, requirements, and costs. Many direct entry nurse practitioner programs for non-nurses offer innovative learning models and flexible classes to meet a variety of learning styles and needs.

Elmhurst University

Elmhurst University, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), offers an accelerated online Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice (MENP) program for students looking to quickly enter the field of nursing. At Elmhurst University, students can obtain their MSN in as little as 20 months, preparing them to sit for the registered nurse licensure exam (NCLEX-RN). Elmhurst’s direct entry program for non-nurses has a 94% NCLEX-RN pass rate, so you can be confident that, with proper preparation on your part, you have an excellent chance of passing. This program is ideal if you’re also interested in working as a nurse leader as the MSN focuses on preparing students for the clinical nurse leader (CNL) certificate exam. The course is offered entirely online, except for clinical hours and one residency, which provide students with invaluable hands-on training and must take place on Elmhurst University’s campus located west of Chicago, Illinois.

To be eligible for admission, students must have completed all necessary prerequisites and reside in one of the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico, Vermont, or Wisconsin. Tuition for the MENP program is $845 per credit hour.

Herzing University

At Herzing University, career changers can receive a direct entry MSN through their flexible online program offerings in as little as 20 to 24 months. Rolling enrollment offers students even greater flexibility by selecting the start date that works for them. While didactic classes are offered online, this direct entry nursing program for non-nurses requires clinical hours and skill Intensives to be completed in-person at Herzing University or an approved partner site.

At the end of the program, students are prepared to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and can apply up to 9 credits to a Herzing University DNP program, or apply for a certificate nurse practitioner program, if they are interested in continuing their education.

Herzing University requires students to have completed all prerequisite courses, including statistics, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, and microbiology, before enrolling and to have earned a minimum GPA of 3.0. Admitted students pay $735 per credit hour. However, once admitted, students are encouraged to take advantage of the scholarships, financial aid, and military/veteran discounts available through the university to help offset the cost of tuition.

Marquette University

With one of the shortest timelines at just 19 months and both hybrid online and traditional learning models to accommodate a wide range of learning styles, career changers can get excited about Marquette University’s direct entry MSN program for non-nurses. The program blends advanced nursing courses, skills lab, and hands-on clinical experience to ensure students are fully prepared to enter the nursing profession. Marquette University also boasts an impressive NCLEX-RN pass rate of 93%. Graduates from the direct entry MSN program often go on to pursue a post-degree advanced nursing certificate in specific areas of practice, a requirement to work as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).

Prospective students must have completed all their prerequisites prior to enrolling. Once enrolled, students can expect to pay $840 per credit hour.

Prerequisites for Direct Entry NP Programs

Let’s look at some common prerequisite courses applicants to direct entry nurse practitioner programs are expected to take. These courses are important because they form the foundation of nursing practice. Expect these courses to be challenging, but rewarding, as you begin to gain the knowledge you’ll need to enter the medical field.

Anatomy & Physiology

Anatomy and physiology will teach you the structures of the human body, both internal and external. This is critical to understand in order to properly assess and understand when a patient is presenting with an abnormal condition. Nurses must have thorough knowledge of anatomy and physiology to provide complete diagnostic care.

Biology & Microbiology

Biology is the study of living organisms while microbiology is a branch of biology that specifically studies microorganisms like bacteria and viruses. Nurses need to learn about these subjects In order to understand disease pathways, processes and treatments.


Chemistry is the study of elements and compounds, including their properties, composition, and substance structure. Nurses need to understand chemistry to help them understand medications and their effects on the body as well as how the body naturally processes its own compounds.

Developmental Psychology & Nutrition

Developmental psychology studies human growth and development across the lifespan. Nutrition is the study of food and how it converts to energy use for our bodies. Nutrition heavily influences development and nurses need to understand what is and is not normal growth and development in order to help implement healthy habits in patients and promote their wellness moving forward.

English or Writing Composition

English classes and writing composition help students learn how to properly write, read, and communicate on paper with others. Nurses must complete extensive charting for every patient they see. Their ability to write down information accurately for other members of the health care team is critically important.


Statistics help us collect, analyze, and interpret data. Nurses do this all the time when they are working with patients to maximize benefits and reduce risk as much as possible. Much of healthcare centers around the balance of risk versus benefit, so an understanding of statistics is very useful in the nursing field.

Concentrations and Specializations in Nurse Practitioner Programs

Once you’ve completed your prerequisites, you’ll have a strong foundation in place to begin an advanced nursing practice program. Advanced practice nurses are highly specialized professionals so you can expect coursework to be detailed, rigorous, and thorough in order to best prepare you for the role of an NP.

Acute Care

An Acute Care NP specializes in treating patients that experience a sudden illness or injury. They can also treat chronic illness flare ups and exacerbations. They usually work in emergency, urgent care, or inpatient settings. Grand Canyon University offers an Acute Care NP program for those that have acquired their MSN RN.

Adult Gerontology

Adult gerontology specializes in providing care to older adults and geriatrics. This field is growing rapidly and has an excellent job outlook. Bouve College, located in Boston, Massachusetts, offers a certificate of Advanced Graduate Study for nurses with a completed MSN.


Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) provide routine care and preventative screenings to patients of all ages. They can anticipate needs based on age and development and manage long term conditions. At the University of California San Francisco, students are trained to meet the needs of a wide variety of patients and sit for the American Association of Nurse Practitioner (AANP)and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) national board certification exams.


Pediatric nurse practitioners specialize in the care, treatment, and development of children up to age 18. The University of Rochester offers a pediatric nurse practitioner course consisting of 45 credit hours and 616 clinical hours.

Psychiatric-Mental Health

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNP) provide for the psychological wellbeing of people of all ages. Yale University offers a PMHNP program that meets the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing.

Women’s Health

The Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) provides gynecologic care to adolescent women throughout their lifespan, specializing in low and high-risk pregnancy, family planning, sexually transmitted infections, and primary care to women. Vanderbilt University is ranked as the #6 graduate university for its MSN program, offering a robust WHNP program.

Application and Curriculum Timeline of Direct Entry NP Programs

The time it takes you to complete a direct entry nurse practitioner program can vary depending on the program you choose, prerequisite requirements, and your specialty. Generally, non-nursing degree holders can expect 2-3 years of full-time coursework and clinicals before being able to practice as an NP.

6 Months Prior to Applying

You should spend this time focusing on preparing for and taking the GRE and Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) if the programs you are applying to require them. You should also check your selected programs’ prerequisite requirements and make sure you’ve completed/met them. This is an excellent time to reach out to current direct entry NP students for advice, ask mentors, professors, or supervisors for letters of recommendation, and collect all necessary application materials.

First 6 Months of Your Program

In the first 6 months of your direct entry nurse practitioner program, your coursework will focus on broad topics and provide an overview of the field. It’s important to thoroughly learn the material at this stage because it will provide the foundation for the rest of your academic career in nursing. This is also a good time to build rapport with classmates and instructors who you can lean for support and guidance as you move forward.

Last 6 Months of Your Program

At this time in the program, you can expect to be very busy with clinicals, practicums, and final exams. You will also be challenged to begin thinking of next steps: such as where you envision working and what type of role you feel best suited for. Spend this time studying and registering for your certification exam, all of which will help set you up for an exciting new career as an advanced practice nurse.

6 Months After Graduating

After completing a direct entry nurse practitioner program, you will need to study for and take your national certification exams. After passing your exams, you will be ready to apply for jobs. Practice interview questions and research prospective employers to feel out the best fit for you. Enjoy this time and feel free to take some time to rest, relax, and reflect on all your hard work.

Career Outlook for Nurse Practitioners

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts a 40% growth rate through 2031 for nurse practitioners. This is well above the national average for most occupations and is a strong indicator for competitive salaries into the future. If you’re considering a direct entry nurse practitioner program, know that the job outlook is promising, providing you with a multitude of options as you embark on your new career.

Salary and Earnings

Given the rising demand for healthcare, it should come as no surprise that a career as an advanced practice nurse can unlock lucrative earning potential. In the United States, the median annual salary for a nurse practitioner is $120,680. Salaries tend to be highest in the northeast and west coast with lower annual salaries throughout the southern states. Regardless of where you live, there is strong demand for nurse practitioners and a very good job outlook ahead.

Area10th PercentileMedian90th Percentile
District of Columbia$96,420$121,470$164,900
New Hampshire$96,040$121,070$153,070
New Jersey$100,660$129,240$163,420
New Mexico$78,660$121,070$159,790
New York$96,420$128,220$167,750
North Carolina$95,460$102,370$133,790
North Dakota$95,970$103,550$129,970
Rhode Island$96,550$125,540$167,750
South Carolina$76,490$100,020$130,200
South Dakota$80,650$102,060$129,270
West Virginia$77,720$100,020$129,480

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021

Demand Outlook

The national job growth for nurse practitioners is currently at 40%. You can compare your home state or the state of your preferred program in the table below to see how it compares. Keep in mind that densely populated states have a higher growth outlook for nurse practitioners. Likewise, less populated states expect to have fewer jobs becoming available. For example, Georgia is well above the national job growth rate for nurse practitioners with an astounding job growth rate of 78.6%! Conversely, Alaska is well below the national average, with an expected growth rate of only 14.3% for nurse practitioners.

Nurse Practitioner Career Outlook (2020-2030)

AreaNew JobsJob Growth Rate Average Annual Openings
United States 114,900 52.2% 26,000
Alabama 2,180 53.6% 490
Alaska 50 14.3% 30
Arizona 5,110 100.8% 910
Arkansas 1,510 53.9% 340
California 9,600 55.5% 2,120
Colorado 1,260 43.0% 300
Connecticut 1,360 47.9% 320
Delaware 420 55.3% 90
District of Columbia 360 41.9% 90
Florida 9,540 70.8% 1,910
Georgia 6,470 78.6% 1,250
Hawaii 210 52.5% 50
Idaho 170 19.8% 60
Illinois 3,670 43.6% 900
Indiana 3,220 54.5% 720
Iowa 1,180 57.6% 260
Kansas 1,230 45.1% 300
Kentucky 2,440 54.5% 540
Louisiana 1,210 37.7% 320
Maine 550 37.4% 150
Maryland 1,550 36.3% 420
Massachusetts 4,030 55.7% 890
Michigan 2,600 50.9% 590
Minnesota 1,880 45.7% 450
Mississippi 1,080 29.1% 330
Missouri 3,030 47.5% 720
Montana 370 47.4% 90
Nebraska 670 39.6% 170
Nevada 810 60.9% 170
New Hampshire 640 58.7% 140
New Jersey 3,770 61.3% 800
New Mexico 640 55.7% 140
New York 9,360 55.6% 2,060
North Carolina 3,130 55.2% 690
North Dakota 400 57.1% 90
Ohio 4,690 48.6% 1,100
Oklahoma 1,020 47.4% 240
Oregon 1,460 61.3% 300
Pennsylvania 2,030 32.7% 580
Rhode Island 200 19.0% 80
South Carolina 1,590 54.8% 350
South Dakota 340 56.7% 70
Tennessee 4,680 57.2% 1,020
Texas 9,780 66.0% 2,010
Utah 1,370 61.2% 290
Vermont 260 53.1% 60
Virginia 3,390 57.1% 740
Washington 2,100 51.3% 690
West Virginia 910 73.4% 180
Wisconsin 1,900 37.3% 500
Wyoming 190 54.3% 40

Source: Projections Central